2018 has been a stellar year of darts for Michael van Gerwen. The World Number 1 has cemented himself at the top of the rankings with a series of outstanding performances since his shock defeat to Rob Cross in the World Championship’s semifinals.
Since then, he has racked up an incredible 15 wins this season, winning two top Premier events on the PDC Schedule, the Premier League and the Masters, as well as winning the World Cup of Darts alongside compatriot Raymond van Barneveld a couple of months back.
Such is his dominance of darts and the level of performance he has shown, van Gerwen was awarded the Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in his homeland earlier this year and just a few weeks back, landed the first nine-darter in five years on the European Tour, when defeating Ryan Joyce.
The Dutchman now heads to Blackpool to take on a field of 31 other players to attempt to win what would be his third World Matchplay title. Let’s now learn a little more about this event and van Gerwen’s chances of success in it.
PDC World Matchplay
The PDC World Matchplay was first contested back in 1994 and has been held every year since at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The venue is rated as one of the best in darts and the tournament itself is ranked second in importance only to the World Championship for players.
Over the years, the tournament has been dominated by one player, Phil Taylor. The Power achieved an unprecedented 16 wins in the tournament (from 17 final appearances) and only Michael van Gerwen has managed to beat Phil Taylor in a final of the event. Across the 24 years that Taylor competed in the tournament, he was only beaten a total of eight times. No player ever beat him twice in the tournament.
Let’s now take a look at the history of the tournament going back to the first event in 1994.
PDC World Matchplay Winners
- 1994 – Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley – 16-12
- 1995 – Phil Taylor beat Dennis Priestley – 16-11
- 1996 – Peter Evison beat Dennis Priestley – 16-14
- 1997 – Phil Taylor beat Alan Warriner – 16-11
- 1998 – Rod Harrington beat Ronnie Baxter – 19-17
- 1999 – Rod Harrington beat Peter Manley – 19-17
- 2000 – Phil Taylor beat Alan Warriner – 18-12
- 2001 – Phil Taylor beat Richie Burnett – 18-10
- 2002 – Phil Taylor beat John Part – 18-16
- 2003 – Phil Taylor beat Wayne Mardle – 18-12
- 2004 – Phil Taylor beat Mark Dudbridge – 18-8
- 2005 – Colin Lloyd beat John Part – 18-12
- 2006 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-11
- 2007 – James Wade beat Terry Jenkins – 18-7
- 2008 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-9
- 2009 – Phil Taylor beat Terry Jenkins – 18-4
- 2010 – Phil Taylor beat Raymond van Barneveld – 18-12
- 2011 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-8
- 2012 – Phil Taylor beat James Wade – 18-15
- 2013 – Phil Taylor beat Adrian Lewis – 18-13
- 2014 – Phil Taylor beat Michael van Gerwen – 18-9
- 2015 – Michael van Gerwen beat James Wade – 18-12
- 2016 – Michael van Gerwen beat Phil Taylor – 18-10
- 2017 – Phil Taylor beat Peter Wright – 18-8
Taylor leads the way in terms of finals won (16) and final appearances (17). Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen are second on the list with two wins apiece, while four players have won the title once, Larry Butler, Peter Evison, Colin Lloyd and James Wade.
In terms of final’s appearances second to Taylor’s 17 is James Wade who has reached six finals. Michael van Gerwen and Dennis Priestley each reached three finals, with Rod Harrington, Alan Warriner, John Part and Terry Jenkins each appearing in two finals. Several players have appeared in just one final including Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright out of the players who are playing in this year’s tournament.
Another big darts moment in history occurred at the tournament in 2002 when Phil Taylor landed the first ever live and televised nine-dart finish. He repeated that in 2014, and since Taylor’s perfect leg in 2002, four other players have landed nine-darters in Blackpool, Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, Wes Newton and Michael van Gerwen.
Let’s now take a look at how the first round of matches at the World Matchplay shape up.
World Matchplay Round 1 Matches
Saturday 21st July
- Adrian Lewis v James Wilson
- Dave Chisnall v Keegan Brown
- Michael van Gerwen v Jeffrey de Zwaan
- Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton
Sunday 22nd July
- Darren Webster v Steve Lennon
- Ian White v Max Hopp
- Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
- Daryl Gurney v Steve West
- Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
- Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
- Rob Cross v Mervyn King
- Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Monday 23rd July
- Kim Huybrechts v John Henderson
- Simon Whitlock v Richard North
- James Wade v Jermaine Wattimena
- Peter Wright v Jelle Klaasen
Following on from these games, the second round will start from Tuesday and the tournament will finish with the final being played on Sunday 29th July. Of course, you will find plenty of betting on the outright winner of the tournament as well as all matches in it courtesy of bet365 Sport.
Who will win the PDC World Matchplay?
There’s no doubt that after his stellar 2018 so far, Michael van Gerwen is the massive favourite to win the event. He is currently 8/11 with bet365 to win the event prior to it starting on Saturday evening. However, if the Dutchman is to win the tournament then he will have to overcome some stiff opposition.
While the opening round tie against Jeffrey de Zwaan should not provide too much competition, a second round match against possibly Adrian Lewis could well be a real test. Then quarterfinal with either Dave Chisnall or Michael Smith also beckons and both these players have the capacity to put van Gerwen through the mill.
Should van Gerwen get that far then a semi-final spot most likely against either Gary Anderson or Raymond van Barneveld is a possibility before a Final appearance against either Peter Wright or Rob Cross most likely. Whatever way you look at it, the draw for van Gerwen looks very tough once he gets past his first-round game.
Gary Anderson and Rob Cross are both 7/1 chances with bet365 Sport, with Peter Wright 9/1, but outside that the odds lengthen sharpy ti Mensur Suljovic and James Wade (25/1) Michael Smith (28/1) and Daryl Gurney (33/1). If you fancy an outside tip then Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis (both 40/1) could be solid options.
For me though, van Gerwen is playing at a different level to other players at the moment and it is hard to see anybody having the ability in these longer-format games to get the job done against a player that scores so heavily and is so adept at taking out crucial finishes when it matters.